Eight hours before show time on opening night, Stephens College theatre students are still painting the set; arranging knick-knacks and other props; and adjusting the lighting.
After a rushed lunch, they return to the stage, this time doing one last rehearsal—a technical rehearsal that allows Director Dan Schultz to tweak lighting, movements and sound.
This is Okoboji Summer Theatre, and every hour counts.
An intensive summer stock theatre company, the program challenges students to produce nine professional shows in just 10 weeks. And they perform those shows for six nights straight.
“There are very few summer stock theatre companies still doing this,” said Taylor Wetzel, a May graduate who has returned as part of the staff. “We have guest artists come to us and say they’ve never done anything like this before.”
On this particular day, the cast and crew is gearing up for the first show, Ken Ludwig’s “The Fox on the Fairway.” It’s a farce about a golf tournament gone awry.
Opening night is a big deal in Okoboji—the theatre is one of few night-time entertainment options in the communities surrounding Okoboji and Spirit lakes, and audiences have returned for more than 55 seasons.
And this opening night did not disappoint. Audiences howled at the antics and over-the-top storyline starring Stephens students Elyse Bertani, Heidi Womelsdorf and Carolyn Williams, conservatory student Ty Carter and guest artists Kyle Groff and Aaron Choi—all of whom enjoyed a standing ovation for their performances.
But what goes on behind the scenes is just as impressive, with technical crews building elaborate sets in just days. “The Fox on the Fairway,” set mostly in a country club house, complete with a full bar, bookshelf and framed portraits of members, was designed by Stephens alumna Michaela Lynne Stein.
“At Okoboji, you learn confidence as a female designer,” she said. “You're not scared to take charge and do the carpentry and other skills that need to be done.”
This particular show runs through Sunday, but already cast members are preparing for the next show, "Rich Girl," a romantic comedy that starts Tuesday, June 24.
Watch a preview video of “The Fox on the Fairway” courtesy of Director Dan Schultz.
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